Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Shukar Karo ke Bajj Gaye....The Cinderella Hour of the Sardar

From multi faith genesis, came the dawn of Sikhism one of the youngest Faiths today. Sikhism ranked as the world’s 5th largest religion with a following of over 20 million people worldwide. Conceptually from the time of ideation it has been a progressive religion, well ahead of its time when it was founded over 500 years ago.

It is the faith I follow and  perhaps so do you…… if accepted in its purity it has given us in its very simplistic format a religious belief system of spiritual sustenance .The path is based on the teachings of ten Gurus, the first of whom was Guru Nanak (1469-1539) and the tenth, was Guru Gobind Singh (1666-1708). Sikhism is unmistakable in its belief in the oneness of God, Ek Onkar ….rejecting idolatry and any worship of object of images.

A collection of thoughts and teachings form the building blocks of a religion. Sikhism stresses the importance of doing good actions rather than merely carrying out rituals. This was a break away from the ritualistic bonds prevalent in Hinduism.
Sikhism is a monotheistic belief……
The word monotheism comes from the Greek monos, which mean one, and theos, which means God. Thus, monotheism is a belief in the existence of a single God…Thus we can say that it is  founded upon the idea that there is only one God, This is true of all  monotheistic religious systems like Judaism, Christianity, Islam, and Sikhism.
Sikhs believe that the way to lead a good life is to:
·         keep God in heart and mind at all times
·         live honestly and work hard
·         treat everyone equally
·         be generous to the less fortunate
·         serve others

From Hinduism also came an acceptance of ideas of samsara - the cycle of rebirths and karma. Samsara literally means "wandering-on”. In most Indian religions, life is not considered to begin with birth and end in death, but as a continuous existence extending to beyond.
Air Marshal Arjan Singh & General JJ Singh

In spite of only being just about 2% of India's population, Sikhs play an important role in the our countries defense forces, agriculture and commerce. As we know a Sikh is called   ‘Sardar ji’…..Sardar means a leader. In order to eliminate the inequality and prejudices of caste system Guru Gobind Singh made every ‘Sikh’ a ‘Sardar’….and consequentially a leader.

But sadly you will notice that collectively as a community, Sardars become a butt of jokes, some of these are harmless and fondly silly while others are stupidly typecast and senile. It is possible that these jokes were started by those, with pigeon holed vision who could not match up with the Sikhs who were seen to be brave, strong, intelligent, diligent  and enterprising.
By far and large we are a community brimming with confidence and an innate sense of chivalrous persona hence a sense of humor that does not easily get offended by such tasteless humour.

Sardarji quips and wisecracks are often inoffensive yet I’m sure they do tend to grate the wits sometimes …..The one liner that most Sardars must have heard sometime or the other is 'Sardarji de Barah Baj gaye' and invariably it is laughed out in discomfited mirth.

 Strangely …..Yet unwittingly, though many would be unaware, this statement was indeed nothing, but a call of help …..Yes I repeat, for in the nether years it neither a tease nor jest… but a matter of saving lives by heroic band of Sikhs.
Why? ….Well, the facts are shrouded in history…

Read on and you will be the intrigued as well.
Did you know that there once came a time that rulers had become so tyrannical and Silks, chivalrous as usual opposed them …… now this made the tyrants livid and they put a reward of 25 Rupaiya for every Sikh head and doubled it for every Sikh caught 
Invaders  carrying  sikh heads to claim award

Between 1713 and 1801 a number of Sikh fighters had altered their lifestyle to live a life of a guerilla and were almost without a roof over their head and were exemplifying heroic acts of courage at every given opportunity. Since Sikhs were fewer in number, they developed strategic, highly skilled, and intelligent way of fighting with the Muslim invaders mostly at night in order to use the darkness to their advantage and they did so at 12 o’ clock midnight or in blistering heat of the midday sun.
Sikhs in the jungle mounting a 12 o'clock raid.
Nadir Shah. A son of a poor shepherd in Khurasan, a province of Iran, joined a robber band when he was still a boy. He grew up to be its leader by 1717. As time went by it was 1725, and he had become a national hero, who drove the Afghans out of Iran, and became a sort of regent with a boy of the royal family as King of Iran. In 1736 the boy King died, and Nadir tacitly took the title of Emperor of Iran…..Soon, as soon as 1937/38 he started to move and came across the Hindukush ranges as marauders. 

Nadir Shah
Nadir Shah was an able general, a wise administrator but an insane criminal. His band of soldiers could aptly be called freebooters, rapists and looters. Atrocities were committed on all populace of Punjab….. Muslims and Hindus alike.

By now the Mughal Empire was a hollow mantle and it had been cracked open by Nadir Shah. 

Delhi was now vulnerable; the Sikhs too came out of their jungle hideouts and had no difficulty in looting all the Mughal countryside posts from the river Chenab to the areas around Karnal. So it seems that Nadir Shah’s invasion was an opportune time for the Sikhs to the restock their depleted stores.

Year or so slipped by, and it  was the beginning of May of 1739 and Nadir Shah  was going home ,backing away  from Delhi, but he taking back with him thousands Hindu and Muslim girls enslaved from Punjab, a large number of boys as slaves…. artisans as 
labour….This human cargo was part of his war booty.

It was a slow caravan that he had as his cargo train, and it had many miles to travel… thousands of elephants, horses and camels laden with loot ….Gold, silver, precious stones, silks and brocades inter woven with gold and silver thread were being carried back along with his human cargo of women, artisans and slaves. The most precious possession in his cache was Kohinoor diamond. His baggage train being heavy-laden, lagged well behind his main force  

Meanwhile the Sikhs banded together in the clearings in the forests and were very agitated when they heard of the rumours .They were resolute that they would attack.
But how they wondered?
How could they take on the trained invaders?

A Sikh campsite
Nadir, on the other hand, felt that his reputation was a sufficient to restrain any misplaced bravado. The route, he had taken was along the foothills of the north to escape the heat of the plains.

In this particular instance it is said, that to avoid the summer heat, the caravan would rest during the day and travel in the night…..Some say  that at the peak of the day heat  that is at 12 noon, the Sikh fighters  started attacking his cargo train in Punjab ,from north of Delhi right  up to the Indus. They managed to free many women, artisans, and slaves and counter looted large amounts of wealth. The young women and girls being taken for slave markets ,were escorted back to Delhi by the Sikhs and the slaves were released.
Slave Market Middle East
We may take it lightly now, but It was a laudable intrepid act by a handful of Sikhs. No one else dared or even dreamed to dare to fight against the might of Nadir.

Thus the Sikhs started getting seen as people who could get moments of madness at 12 Noon, Perhaps this was the origin of the 12 o' clock jokes of nowadays

Now coming back to Nadir Shah ….He was stunned by the audacious strike …it was quite  a shock for him to hear on reaching Akhnoor by the river Chenab , that most of  his slaves  and women had been freed by Sikh bands, who had also seized a large share of his gold, including the Kohinoor.

One name steps out in history at this point of time …Jassa Singh Ahluwalia….He had just turned 21, and in spite of his inexperience showed a glimpse of his greatness as a leader by planning those raids, and by escorting the freed women and giving them
 protection till they were taken back to the safety of their villages and families.

Nadir Shah was perplexed by the turn of events, he quizzed Zakaria Khan the Mughal general who had accompanied Nadir Shah to Akhnoor.

Who are these Sikhs? Why don't you burn their houses down to punish them?
 Zakaria Khan expressed the futility of his efforts in words “We have tried to prevent them….They seem unstoppable …Their only homes are the saddles of their horses. They can last long periods without food and rest. It seems they can go to sleep on horseback. We have put prizes on their heads, but their numbers keep increasing. 
In spite of hardships their morale never flags, they never tire of singing the praise of 
their Pirs."

Nadir Shah looked pensive and remarked that in that case the Sikhs would one day rule the land and further despondently admitted that his only choice was to cut his losses and move on.
With the departure of Nadir Shah, Zakaria Khan avenged his loss of face and killed 10,000 Sikhs in a few days.

After Nadir Shah came Ahmad Shah Abdali, the ruler from Afghanistan. He rampaged India nine times. Again the Sikhs attacked his returning caravans of looted booty strategically at midday or at midnight and freed over 2000 women and escorted them back to their homes. Yet again it was 12 o’clock, which unfortunately the others perceived as a maddening act and therefore further strengthened the 12 o’clock syndrome.
 These acts of Sikhs aggravated Ahmed Shah Abdali, who swore to take revenge at an appropriate time. During his sixth invasion he caught the Sikhs unaware and 25,000 of them were killed in a few days.
 But the spirit of the Sikhs remained high as one Nihang Sikh of that time nonchalantly commented … ‘eh Kachche khiladi si’…. He felt that only those that were soft and unbaked fell off.
This, my friends is the true tale of valour laced with bravado of young Sikhs in late eighteenth century, continuing well into nineteenth century.

12 O’clock was the hour of retribution …The hour of payback. Whether this be 12 O’clock  in the dead of the night or 12 o’clock  in the sweltering midday sun….The band of Sikh fighters chose their battles and chose the time and chose it well….to strike and bleed the enemy.
Next time if somebody says ‘sardarji  barah bajj gaye’ …

Lift your head high and with pride say ‘Yes shukar karo ke Bajj gaye……otherwise who would be there to save the honour of your mother sister and wife.’

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

....'Love From your Valentine'

From Pagan Rome to Today...... 

The mysteries of the origins of Valentine’s Day are steeped in the ancient Roman pagan celebration of Lupercalia. Held on February 15, Lupercalia honored the Gods Lupercus and Faunus, as well as the legendary founders of Rome, Romulus and Remus.

Let me digress a little and tell you the tale of the twin brothers, Romulus and Remus. They were the sons of the God Mars. When they were very little they were abandoned by the banks of the River Tiber …...As luck would have it they were found by a she-wolf who adopted them and fed them with her milk.
 Later a shepherd found the boys and took them home. He looked after them and raised them as his own children. The boys grew up to be strong and clever .One day they decided that they would build a town on the spot where the Shepherd had found them. And a town they did build…..but soon the brothers had a big clash on who will be the king…. Romulus routed his brother Remus , who died in the fight. Thus Romulus became the first king of the town which he called Rome, after himself….

This is how Rome came to be.
During those days Rome was surrounded by wilderness and packs of wolves roamed all over the countryside, shepherds were constantly under threat by them. Lupercus, one of the many Roman Gods, watched over the shepherds and their flocks. In Latin, the word lupus is the word for wolf. 
In his honour the Romans held a grand big feast in February of each year and called it the Lupercalia……So they say…But the origin of Lupercalia is so ancient that even scholars of the last century before Christ were never sure.

Soon some strange rituals were part of the festivities…youth of noble birth used to run through the streets with goatskin thongs. Young women would crowd the street in the hope of being lashed with the sacred thongs as it was believed to make them better able to bear children.

The goatskin thongs were known as the februa and the lashing ….the februatio, both coming from a Latin word meaning to purify. The name of the month February comes from this meaning.

Long after Rome became a powerful empire, the Lupercalia still lived on and when Roman armies invaded France and Britain, they took the Lupercalia and its customs there.
In addition to a bountiful feast, Lupercalia festivities included the pairing of young women and men. Men would draw women's names from an urn, and each couple would be paired until next year's celebration.

Though the love angle was evident in this pairing of couples, it still wasn't called "Valentine's Day".
If we take a peek into  life in Rome of the third century …..What do we see ?

Rome ruled by Emperor Claudius He is known in history as Claudius the Cruel. 

Wars broke out in the Roman Empire. Claudius ordained that the citizens go to battle and year after year as  the fighting continued. Claudius wanted to have a big and powerful army. …..For this he needed soldiers .

He expected men to volunteer to join. But many of the young men just did not want to fight in wars….. They did not want to leave their wives and families. As you might have guessed, not many men signed up.
 So do you know what happened?

This made Emperor Claudius furious and he had a crazy outrageous idea…… By decree he banned marriage.He thought that if men were not married, they would not mind joining the army. So Claudius decided not to allow any more marriages in his empire. By any standards this was preposterous ….Young citizens thought his new law was cruel and draconian …And Valentine the young Priest at the temple was certainly not going to support that law!

He loved the marriage ceremonials and was joyous to see young couples in love.

Just imagine the drama. It must have been really quite exciting.  Let me help you visualize the scene ….a small candlelit room with only the bride and groom and the brave priest in robe…  With vows being whispered and the bride and groom repeating them softly under their breath ….. All the while, acutely aware that the steps of soldiers that might come anytime.

Being an incurable romantic at heart he continued performing marriages even after Emperor Claudius passed his law…… secretly, of course. But, such secrets could not be kept for long in Rome . At last word of Valentine's acts reached the palace and Claudius the Cruel was angry, exceedingly angry.

One night the footsteps came  to the Temple ,Valentine heard the footsteps. It must have been scary! But God be blessed, he helped the young bride and groom escape in time.
But Claudius had sent his soldiers to "Go! Take that priest in the temple! Cast him into a dungeon! No man in Rome, priest or not, shall disobey my commands!"
Valentine was dragged from the temple and the soldiers took him off to prison and death was his punishment. Somehow the word spread about his execution like wild fire and Wonderful things happened. He tried not to be desolate and keep merry .Many young people came to the jail to visit him. They threw flowers and notes up to his window. They all genuinely expressed that they too, believed in love.

One of these young people was the daughter of the prison guard. Her father allowed her to visit Valentine in the cell. Sometimes they would sit and talk for hours. She agreed that I did the right thing by ignoring the Emperor and going ahead with the secret marriages. On the day he was to die, he wrote  a little note for her thanking her for her friendship and loyalty......And do you know how he signed it signed it, ........"Love, from your Valentine."

Perhaps that note started the custom of exchanging love messages on Valentine's Day. It was written on the day Valentine died  February 14, 269 A.D.

The history of Valentine's Day — and its patron saint, you will agree is still shrouded in mystery. But we do know that February has long been a month of romance. St. Valentine's Day, as we know it today, contains what's left of both Christian and ancient Roman Pagan tradition.

In an effort to do away with the pagan festival, Pope Gelasius ordered a slight tweaking of customs …. instead of the pagan God ‘Lupercus’, the Church looked for a suitable patron saint of love to take his place.
They found an appropriate choice in Valentine, who, in AD 270 had been beheaded by Emperor Claudius.

This was how Saint Valentine became associated with this ancient rite!!!

Now, every year on this day, people remember. …Rather they think about love and friendship. And when they think of Emperor Claudius, they remember how he tried to stand in the way of love, and they laugh -- because they know that love can't be beaten!...It shall always overcome.

Sunday, February 13, 2011

Valentine’s Day …. The Day Cupid Comes Calling.

Spring in Paris
Paris, everything about Paris … Everything you do in Paris seems to be touched by the glow of romance. If you have been to Paris you will know what I am talking about … whether it is queuing for croissants or just sitting on a cafĂ© patio sipping an aperitif and watching the world go by…..

 Night or day, Paris lives. It's a city for lovers and a city to fall in love with and the aura acts as a kind of elixir to the soul. It is truly the most romantic place in the world.

But this time of the year the ‘Romance’ is in the air and euphoria of love spreads its wings wide, creating a global mania. Smart marketers have further optimized the opportunity to fan ‘The Valentine fever. You don’t believe me…then just step out into the City Malls and markets to see the hubbub of Valentine’s Day.

Cupid is the most famous of Valentine symbols and everybody knows that little cherub, a playful, winged child armed with bow and arrows…..They say his arrows are a sign of desires and emotions of love.
Cupid Cherub
Now, what does the playful Cupid do?
He aims those unseen arrows at both Gods and Humans, nudges them to fall deeply in love.
 In ancient Greece he was known as Eros, the young son of Aphrodite,  the goddess of love and beauty.
But To the Roman's he was Cupid, and his mother was Venus.

There is a very interesting story I was told many years ago about Cupid and His mortal bride Psyche in Roman mythology. Venus was jealous of the beauty of Psyche, and ordered Cupid to punish the mortal. But instead, Cupid fell deeply in love with her. He took her as his wife, but as a mortal she was forbidden to look at him.

Cupid with Psyche

All the same Psyche was happy even with this … then comes…. but….But then her sister persuaded her to look at Cupid and as soon as Psyche looked at Cupid….He left her. Their lovely castle and gardens vanished too. Psyche found that was she alone in an open field with no signs of other beings or Cupid.
Venus with Cupid
As she wandered trying to find her love, she came upon the temple of Venus. Wishing to destroy her, the goddess of love Venus, gave Psyche a series of tasks, each harder and more dangerous than the last. …She did them all but she failed the last one and slipped into deadly slumber.

Cupid brought Psyche back to life and ‘The Gods, moved by Psyche's love for Cupid made her a goddess.
Cupid thus represents the heart and Psyche the human soul… rather the struggles of the human soul.
Come to think of it, we can see that Cupid is still quite busy as the symbol of Valentine.
Duke of Orleans

History tells us the first modern Valentines were chronicled from the early years of the fifteenth century. There once was a young handsome French Duke of Orleans Louis Phillipe who was deeply in love with his lovely wife but he had to leave her and go to the battle front fighting the Anglo – French wars .

As fate would have it, it was his misfortune that he was captured at the battle of Agincourt, and was kept a prisoner in the Tower of London for many may years. Imprisoned and desolate he wrote poem after poem to his wife filled with love and pathos. Now these were what I would call the… ‘True’ Valentines.

 About sixty of them still remain and are kept in the British Museum among the royal papers. I have seen them displayed and so can you, if you happen to be museum enthusiast. You can also see the oldest known Valentine card on display at the British Museum….

Valentine greetings were popular as far back as the  ‘Middle Ages’ …Though written Valentine's didn't begin to appear until after 1400.

  • In the middle Ages, young men and women drew names from an urn to see who their Valentines would be. They would wear these names on their sleeves for one week….We have all heard the aphorism… ‘To wear your heart on your sleeve’ now this gives us insight as to what it means.
  • In some countries, a young woman may receive a gift of clothing from a young man. If she keeps the gift, it means she will marry him.
  • Some people used to believe that if a woman saw birds flying   overhead on Valentine's Day it had different meanings….

If she saw a Robin … She would marry a sailor.
 If she saw a sparrow…She would marry a poor man and be very happy.
If she saw a goldfinch, she would marry a millionaire.

  • Apples figure in traditions as well….The young people would think of five or six names of boys or girls they might want to marry….  Now the quaint bit….They would start twisting the stem and as they twist the stem of an apple, so they recite the names until the stem comes off….. The person on whose name the stem comes off…..indicated the love of their life.
  • Apples again if you cut an apple in half and count how many seeds are inside; you will also know how many children you will have.
  • Now let not the Dandelions be left behind ….Pick a dandelion that has gone to seed. The young couple took a deep breath and blew the seeds into the wind. Count the seeds that remain on the stem….. That is the number of children you will have.
  • In Wales wooden love spoons were carved and given as gifts on February 14th. Hearts, keys and keyholes were favourite decorations on the spoons. The decoration meant, "You unlock my heart!"

Talking of ‘Love’ in Victorian times…….There was a ‘Love seat’ …..A wide chair. It was first made to seat one woman and her wide dress and, often in an S-shape. In this way, a couple could sit together -- but not too closely!
Love seat

Flowers as valentines appear nearly two hundred years later. Henriette-Marie  a daughter of Henry IV of France gave a party in honor of St Valentine. Each lady received a beautiful bouquet of flowers from the man chosen as her valentine.
Henri le Grand

Henry was  popularly called ‘ Henry the Great’ (Henri le Grand) in France ….he was also called le bon roi Henri ("the good king Henry") or le Vert gallant ("the Green gallant"), a reference to both his dashing character and his attractiveness to women.

So differing customs from different countries …. Italy, France and England, Ireland US came together to celebrate ‘The Valentine’s Day .Then came the global  acceptable  and appealing custom of sending  friends and relatives  loving messages on this day……

Thus with flowers, with heart-shaped candies, and with valentine cards we honour the good priest who disobeyed Claudius the Cruel. 
Now who was Claudius the Cruel?
What does he have to do with Valentine’s Day?

This is will be my next tag on story on Valentine and its genesis......

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Dream with your Eyes Wide Open

Religion and spirituality are often used as synonyms.

 But are they?

 While, religion is more to do with rituals and conforms to scripted dogma and system of belief. Spirituality on the other hand is free flowing and not ephemeral and rigid .It is bonded with the core of the Self or we can say the spirit of the soul.

This greater power and the energy that we call spirit is our connectivity with God.

That takes us to the eternal question …..A quest to who is God?

God is what we believe Him to be. Simplistically put we could say, ‘God is the power greater than us upon whom we tend to rely’. 

The most important turn we take in our life is when we set aside the ego of the self and admit to this self that …It is God that has control of our life and gives us courage to face our problems. 

Spirituality goes far beyond an expression of religion or practice of religion. We have a relentless pursuit for a spiritual element in our life that not only inspires us, but creates harmony with the universe.
 That relationship between ourselves and something greater compels us to continuously   seek answers about this infinite.

One of the basic Universal Laws that govern our universe, and is the foundation of all the Oriental philosophies and of many Western philosophies as well…… Is the Law of Attraction. It cannot be disputed……Similarly as we cannot  dispute ‘The Law of Gravity’

It states that "like attracts like" and is based on the understanding of electromagnetism and quantum mechanics. Thoughts are made of energy and every thought has its own energy frequency. High frequency energy thoughts attract more high frequency energy to them and low frequency energy thoughts attract more of the same. This simple, universal truth or law can be used to manifest happiness, success, love, good health, riches, money, and abundance into your life. For what we think….What we dream about with our eyes wide open is what we create!

When you realize that you only have to look inside yourself in order to manifest all of these wonderful things, it leads to a profound sense of spirituality - of being one with the Source.

In India, spirituality and religion are part of everyday life.

 The Four Principles of Spirituality, India has spread in this world are.....

  • The First Principle states:

"Whomsoever you encounter is the right one”

This means that no one comes into our life by chance. Everyone who is around us, anyone with whom we interact, represents something, whether to teach us something or to help us improve a current situation.

  • The Second Principle states:

“Whatever happened is the only thing that could have happened”

Nothing, absolutely nothing of that which we experienced could have been any other way. Not even in the least important detail. There is no “If only I had done that differently…, then it would have been different…”. No. What happened is the only  thing that could have taken place and must have taken place for us to learn our lesson in order to move forward. Every single situation in life which we encounter is absolutely perfect, even when it defies our understanding and our ego.

  • The Third Principle states:

Each moment in which something begins is the right moment”

Everything begins at exactly the right moment, neither earlier nor later. When we are ready for it, for that something new in our life, it is there, ready to begin.

  • This is the Fourth Principle, the final one:

“What is over, is over”

It is that simple. When something in our life ends, it helps our evolution. That is why, enriched by the recent experience, it is better to let go and move on.

I think it is no coincidence that you’re here reading this.

If these words strike a chord, it’s because you meet the requirements and understand that not one single snowflake falls accidentally in the wrong place!

Be good to yourself.Be kind to yourself.

Love with your whole  soul.

Be happy.